During the Westward expansion of North America, hordes of hopeful European immigrants arrived on the East coast. They gambled what little resources they had to join the rush to the promised lands of the West.
They rode roughshod over the already established Mexican and Native populations. The promise of free land and gold tempted all kinds of innocents and rogues to try their luck “Out West”.
Amongst this colourful shower, there were journalists and photographers. They set themselves up in frontier towns or travelled through the wilderness to record this momentous period in the history of the nascent nation.
Thousands from this motley bunch sat for portraits to send back to their countries of origin or to those they had left behind. They wanted to show family members, loved ones and friends that they were prospering out West.
Photographers kept a limited wardrobe of “decent clothes” for anyone who did not possess a suit or a dress to create this illusion of wellbeing and prosperity.
In this series my intent is to pay homage to the studio portraits of this era, as seen by the photographers of frontier towns and settlements.
I have been fascinated and enthralled with history all my life. If I were to choose specific periods in history though as my favourites, very near the top of the list would be the Western expansion of settlers in North America.
The period that particularly interests me is that phase from around the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865, which was such a violent, pivotal and world changing event, to 1900, when the West stepped unto the threshold of the Modern Era. This was a time, following the Industrial Revolution and its monumental consequences, paralleled by the almost primeval conditions of the Frontier life.
Download the concept synopsis for the project (pdf)